Miller Springs Nature Center, east of Lake Belton, closed down in August. The center, which opened in October 1993, was a popular place for Central Texas hikers, fishers, bikers and nature lovers.
The 260-acre land preservation, complete with hiking trails and various wildlife, was run by Miller Springs Alliance, a non-profit volunteer group. In 1993, the center took out a lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since that time, the Alliance volunteers maintained the trails for the Center for Central Texas visitors to enjoy.
The Alliance announced the closure of the park on Facebook, stating that due to lack of funding, they were ending their 24-year lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and giving the land back to the Corps.
“We appreciate all the support received through the years from volunteer projects, and we hate to see them end,” the center volunteers stated in their Facebook post. “Thank you for enjoying the Nature Center. It is a unique place in Central Texas, and we are saddened to see the gate closed.”
Members of the community upset by the center’s closure are rallying together against the park closure with a Facebook group, Save Miller Springs Nature Center. As of this printing, more than 6,800 people have signed a petition on change.org for the park to reopen.
Vanessa Duke, a Belton High School alumna from Killeen, started the petition.
“I wanted to gather firm evidence of community support [that the park stays open] if it ever came into question.”
Miller Springs has a special place in Duke’s heart because she frequented the park during her senior year of high school.
“It’s a place right in our own backyard where we can enjoy the great outdoors and connect with nature.”
Duke said that she’s tried reaching out to the city, but has not heard back yet.
“Much of the city’s efforts have been concentrated towards Harvey relief, rightfully so,” she said. “As a result it’s been slow going.”
Senior criminal justice major Chase McGhee was one of the signers of the petition.
McGhe said he signed the petition because he frequently hikes and fishes at Miller Springs.
“I shared the petition and had everyone I know sign it,” McGhee said. “Now that I go to UMHB, it is one of the few close hiking spots that we have.”
McGhee said that he enjoyed going to the park because of the different features the park has to offer.
“Miller Springs has a very diverse hiking experience,” he said. “There’s so many different sceneries as well: gravel creeks, a few caves, and rock cliffs that are great if you like rock climbing. It’s isolated enough that you get to see a lot of wildlife while you’re hiking.”
McGhee used his time at Miller Springs to connect with God and get away from the busyness of campus life.
“Nature is kind of the way I connect with God, be alone, and have peace,” he said. “So, to see something get taken away that I have so many memories with is just upsetting.”